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The State vs. Aaron Swartz and the Government-Journalism-Internet-Complex

A lot of people have had a lot to say about the late Aaron Swartz, who, while being prosecuted and persecuted by the U.S. Department of “Justice,” committed suicide just recently at age 26.

According to the NYT, Swartz was charged with “wire fraud, computer fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer and criminal forfeiture.”

Glenn Greenwald describes the case against Swartz. But as Greenwald notes, the alleged “victims” didn’t even want to press charges; it was the damn zombies of the U.S. “justice” system doing this, and for no good reason.

Nobody knows for sure why federal prosecutors decided to pursue Swartz so vindictively, as though he had committed some sort of major crime that deserved many years in prison and financial ruin. Some theorized that the DOJ hated him for his serial activism and civil disobedience. Others speculated that, as Doctorow put it, “the feds were chasing down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley Manning in the hopes of turning one of them.”

Boston-based media analyst Dan Kennedy had this post on Swartz and the zealousness of U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz. Some of the commenters seem to be defending the State’s actions, perhaps lacking in understanding of the specific case in question, and/or a lack of understanding of “intellectual property.”

Sadly, there are many people, especially statists who think they are “liberal,” who support the State’s “intellectual property” laws but at the same time support the State’s schemes of confiscating private wealth and redistributing it to those to whom it does not belong, i.e. against economic freedom as well as intellectual freedom.

For a better understanding of “intellectual property,” see Sheldon Richman and Stephan Kinsella.

In the case at hand, Swartz had not “hacked” or broken into anyone’s personal Internet accounts or passwords, or compromised anyone’s private personal information or security, nor was he accused of those things. If he committed any crimes, they could have been considered to be trespassing into an MIT closet, as well as possibly violating JSTOR’s Terms of Service, as Greenwald observed.

But in reality, all Swartz was doing was promoting true Internet and intellectual freedom, which is something the State does not like. The State does not like the First Amendment and all that it stands for, and will do what it can to suppress information, especially that which is critical of the State itself and which expresses the illegitimacy of the State’s various intrusions, violations and crimes.

Kevin Carson writes, regarding the Swartz case,

So the people who hounded Aaron Swartz to his death did so, not even in the realistic hope of victory, but out of the same vindictive impulse that drives a defeated invader to inflict one more indignity on the violated country on its way out. Aaron Swartz was not the last man to die for a “mistake,” but — let us hope — the last atrocity inflicted by a criminal aggressor.

Now, I was surprised to hear on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour last night (rebroadcast on WGBH radio) Margaret Warner interviewing Kevin Poulsen of Wired. It sounded like Poulsen was defending Swartz, which was a surprise to me given Poulsen’s past controversies, although it was probably because the two were friends as Swartz had worked with Poulsen at Wired.

But back around the beginning of the government’s case against Army Pvt. Bradley Manning,  Poulsen was the one at Wired who had apparently suppressed 75% of the chat logs between Manning and Adrian Lamo, the one who turned Manning in to the government, as Glenn Greenwald wrote in this lengthy post from 2010. And Greenwald updated that in this post regarding the “worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired,” and Wired‘s “severe journalistic malfeasance” in withholding the chat logs.

But in 2011, when Wired finally released the full chat logs, Greenwald asserted that they “provide vital context and information about what actually happened here.  To say that Poulsen’s claims about what Wired withheld were factually false is to put it generously.” Those posts regarding the chat logs are must reads if you haven’t read them before.

To me, there was the implication that Wired may have intentionally withheld portions of the chat logs which could have put Manning’s alleged actions into the more accurate context of his merely wanting to expose the military’s crimes and that the American people had a right to know about them, and thus showing that he could not have been doing anything close to “aiding and abetting the enemy” or revealing actual classified information. But, if that were the case, what would Wired‘s motivation have been to withhold such vital contextual information?

Beware the Government-Journalism-Internet-Complex.

When it comes to the truth, Internet freedom and intellectual freedom, and attempting to separate oneself from the State’s monopoly, Aaron Swartz was the real deal.

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